Local firefighters to join fight to bring raging California wildfires under control
MONROE, Wash. -- Nearly two dozen local firefighters left Everett on Friday afternoon to help fight several raging wildfires that are burning in Southern California.
The strike team, which is made up of firefighters from several different agencies in Snohomish and Skagit counties, is scheduled to arrive in the Los Angeles area by Saturday night.
The call for help from Southern California came in Thursday night, which didn't give local firefighters much time to prepare for the long drive ahead.
On Friday morning, they conducted last-minute checks on their rigs to make sure all of their equipment is properly in place.
"Right now, just focused and thinking about what needs to be done when we get down there," said firefighter Bryan Kerr, Snohomish County Fire District 7.
Kerr is one of 22 local firefighters who are making the 1,200 mile trip to a staging area down in Chino, California, which is where they expect to learn if they’ll staff fire stations nearby or head out to the front lines to replace already-exhausted crews. Another group made up of about three firefighters is scheduled to leave Snohomish County on Saturday.
The powerful Santa Ana winds they’ll face will be a lot different from what many of them have battled in Eastern Washington.
"The winds down there are a lot different, you know. We don’t get those Santa Ana winds or anything typical to that over on the east side," said Ryan McCarthy, Strike Team Leader for Washington Task Force #1. "So, it’s one of those things that we have to be aware of those kind of weather conditions that they’re not familiar with."
The group will be on a 16-day deployment.
Over the next two weeks, they'll likely be on 24-hour shifts.
Crews here at home will step up to respond to local calls while they’re gone.
"It’s kind of an all-hands-on-deck. Even though we’ve got people who aren’t going to California, our crews know that they need to step in and help out for our citizens here," said Heather Chadwick, Public Information Officer for Snohomish County Fire District 7. "So, we’re all fully staffed. All of our engines are still going to be running calls. All of our stations will be fully-staffed."
As he listened to final orders, Kerr admitted his biggest worry while he's away will be his family.
"Gettin’ home for Christmas to see my little daughter," he said.
Layla just turned a year old, Kerr added.
Her father’s journey ahead will be long.
Safety is his highest priority as he and his fellow firefighters embark on the unknown.
"Staying safe and keeping a clear mind so we can react appropriately to whatever situation is presented to us," Kerr said.
Either the federal government or the state of California will pay for the group's deployment, Chadwick said. It all depends on where the fire is burning and who actually made the request for help, she added.